They huddled in the corner. It was late evening. The darkness was coming, but they were unafraid. For them, it was forever dark. The darkness was inside them, jammed down their throats, smeared on their skins, tied to their tongues, poked into their eyes.
Light meant nothing to them. They might as well have been blind, but they weren’t.
I had volunteered to teach them English. The language of hope, the vocabulary of dreams, their ticket to a better life in some distant land.
I was sure they wouldn’t go far. Only a few ever did.
They recited their names like tired parrots. I listened to each one, then my brain muddled them together. Not willing to request them for a repeat performance, I pointed, smiled, and ushered them into their chairs.
They sat with their heads bowed, not out of respect, but due to the weight of their miseries hanging from their necks. Agony and sorrow had shriveled them to skin and bones. It wasn’t blood but despair that flowed through their veins.
Ten? Twelve? Fourteen?
That’s how old they were. But my eyes saw gaunt faces, aged souls that had seen enough for one lifetime.
I began with the alphabet. Only twenty-six letters, but it didn’t matter after the eleventh one.
‘When did you last eat?’
My own question caught me off guard. Yet I had to know.
No one spoke. I asked again. My voice was louder, the urgency more apparent.
One of them looked up, his eyes were empty, devoid of feeling or emotion. I wish I had seen anger in them or a hint of madness, but there was nothing. His voice was shrill.
‘Yesterday evening, madam.’
I believed him but still looked at the others for confirmation.
Slowly, silently, wearily, heads rose, eyes zeroed in on me. I searched for life in them, yet not even death would dare reside in them. Cold, warm, happy, sad – no word could describe the look they contained.
Were there any tears left for them to cry?
The indifference was suffocating. I shuddered and looked away.
They were called the orphans of war.
But I would remember them as the children with no eyes.
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Sad. But a very good piece of writing…..
‘It wasn’t blood but despair that flowed through their veins’
Is good ……
Thank you, Don. I guess sadness is the flavor of the year. Appreciate it. 🙂
very moving and topical; depressing but with a glimmer of hope: some do make it out —
That’s the charm of hope, no matter what, we can always see a way out. Thank you so much, John. 🙂
Such a haunting story, very well written.
Thank you so much, Rae. I appreciate it. 🙂
You assemble words in powerful ways!
Thank you so much, Geoff. I appreciate it. 🙂
Though heartbreaking, this is an exquisite piece. I feel helpless in the face of such suffering.
Thank you so much, Tamara. We all do. It’s a predicament which one can’t ignore but the ease of pushing it away makes one lighter with a slight dash of guilt (for some). The human way…
Yes, Terveen. Thinking upon such sadness every moment of our lives would cause us to lose the will to continue with our own lives. And our debilitation does not help the suffering, anyway. When I feel helpless, God reminds me to pray, thru Jesus’ Name. Of course, I need to ask The Lord to give me the passion to petition for those whom I cannot see or even know- as if they are all my own family (which they are). You write so beautifully and poetically.
You are a wonderful soul, Tamara. Continue to believe and keep your faith strong. 🙂
Thank you, Terveen. This makes my day! ☺️😊
It’s a sad reality.
Yes, it is. Thanks Cassa.
This is intense and heartbreaking, Terveen. I think sometimes we see so much of this horror on the television there is a danger we could become desensitized to their situations. This is a reminder there are human beings and life-stories behind each one of these orphans.
I agree with you, Davy. Too much of anything always leaves its mark in some way. I believe those who endure atrocities and suffering also desensitize themselves or disassociate from the turmoil as a defense mechanism. Its heartbreaking and devastating. Each one a story with too much pain. Thank you for sharing your feelings and words. 🙂
Compliments. A hard story. But true to millions of children still.
Thank you. Yes, it is a reality for so many. Unfortunate…
Brilliant writing here, Terveen! 👏👏
Thank you so much, Aaysid. 🙂
So nostalgic a write, Terveen. How devastating for the children with no eyes. An apt reference.
Thank you so much, Shobana. Pain often numbs the mind and heart. It’s tragic.
Oh, Terveen, that’s so painful. You’ve expressed so eloquently the brutality of war, and it’s horrid aftermath on the young and vulnerable. I adore this beautiful write.
Thank you so much, Jeff. It was tough for the heart to write. But ugly truths and realities are never easy. And those who suffer are alone to bear the burden. Be well and have a wonderful Sunday. 🙂
You’re most welcome, Terveen. I completely understand and agree with you. Thank you for the well wishes. A wonderful Sunday and coming week to you too. ☺️
Wow. Such an incredibly moving piece.
Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
So powerful and emotional…
Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
That’s such a sad story. Wish there are no children go hungry in this world.
Thank you so much, Haoyan. I appreciate it. 🙂
This one hurts on some deep levels. Kids should never have to experience abject despair or soul-crushing sorrow. I was reminded of the film Conrack, based on Pat Conroy’s memoir The Water is Wide, about his time as a white teacher in rural South Carolina and his class of young African-American kids who lived in terrible poverty. He struggled to connect with these children with whom he had nothing in common, and his efforts were hampered by severe white racism and mistrust among the children’s parents. These kids had, for the most part, lost all hope of anything better than what little they already had. Your tale takes it another step into a realm of horror, almost, where the kids seem lost forever, almost devoid of their souls. This is fine writing, Terveen. What a cutting indictment of humanity’s failure to protect our children from harm. Brilliant stuff. 🙂
Thanks a million, Mike. That’s exactly what I think the feeling might be. One of utter despair and lack of any hope or belief that things will get better. It really is devastating to know that so many (including children) have to live lives that are probably worse than being dead. And the way we write and talk about it seems so disconnected and casual, not befitting of the suffering that these pour souls must bear. It’s definitely like their souls have been condemned to a dark void to remain there forever. No words or emotions can explain this. I appreciate your sharing this example with me.
Interesting. But what did this experience do to the narrator? How did it change her?
Thank you for your interest in how this incident may have affected the narrator. I suppose it can only be left to one’s imagination to presume the emotional and psychological distress. Every person is different. Thanks for reading! 🙂
Depressing but intense
a great work by you.
It was a good read.
Thanks so much, Devang. I truly appreciate it. Sadness has that cutting edge.